Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Travel Journal#9.8: New York, London, Amsterdam, and More

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 9, No. 8
By Krishna-kripa das
(April 2013, part two
New York City, London, Amsterdam
(Sent from Newcastle upon Tyne, England, on May 28, 2013)

Where I Went and What I Did

I lot happened in the second half of April, and it is a challenge to recount it, what to speak of illustrating it!

After leaving Gainesville, Trevor and I flew from Jacksonville to New York. I did harinama in Brooklyn and Manhattan for several days, while Trevor joined the Manhattan party for what is turning out to be the entire summer! Each day, after chopping vegetables for Radha Govinda for two hours, I would chant with Nruhari Prabhu in Brooklyn for an hour in the morning and then chant with Rama Raya Prabhu’s harinama party at Union Square or different subway stations in Manhattan in the late afternoon for four hours. Our Rama-navami harinama in Manhattan was memorable, and I share pictures and videos of it. I also joined Atma Nivedana Prabhu and his wife and their team of devotees who chant and distribute books in their sankirtana festival in Union Square one Saturday a month from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. I went to Albany for a day and a half, sharing maha sweets from Radha Govinda with the members of my Quaker meeting there, cooking a nice prasadam dinner with and for my family, and visiting Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami and his assistants the next day for lunch. On April 23, I flew to London where I did harinama and gave lectures for a few days before going with Parasurama Prabhu’s party to the Queen’s Day harinama, which was better than ever. While in the UK, I chanted with the Hare Krishna festival team in Reading and Slough, two new cities for me, and one day I attended record number of five harinamas in London. I also chanted on the ferry between England and France, which I hardly ever do.

I have great quotes from Srila Prabhupada’s books, a quote by Kavicandra Swami, and a few quotes from the blog and books of Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami. There are also some valuable realizations from devotees in the London Yatra, including some great quotes about dancing.

Thanks to Kavicandra Swami for his photos from Queen’s Day, Atma-Nivendana Prabhu, Rasika Gopi Devi Dasi, and Bhaktin Zina for their pictures of harinamas in New York City, and a very special thanks again to Srikar Prabhu, who bought me the camera I used to take the pictures in Europe and a few of the pictures and all the videos in New York. Thanks also to Matt Hollingsworth for putting his video of us chanting in the United Kingdom on YouTube.

Harinamas in New York

The very day we arrived from Florida, Trevor and I went out on harinama at Union Square. Trevor led some of the time, playing the harmonium.

There are always people attracted to participate in harinamas, especially in a big city like New York. This chap in the picture below sat on his skateboard as he grooved on the transcendental sound.

Another evening in Union Square, some kids danced in front of our party.

Below, in Grand Central Subway Station, a small girl danced in a circle with her father, as devotees and passersby smiled.

The devotees were so fired up on Rama Navami! Usually we chant from 4 to 8 p.m. but on that day we started before 4 p.m. and went on to 8:45 p.m., when many of us went to the Rama Navami celebration at Radha Govinda Mandir. Our venue for the harinama was the Delancey Street subway station where people wait for the uptown “F” train and where the party often chants on Fridays. There is a mural behind where the devotees sit of a more natural scene, a touch of goodness there amidst the dinginess of the subway station.

I would stand on the far side and dance,
ready to distribute a flyer to an interested person.

At the height, we had seventeen devotees chanting.

Some people would move with the music as they passed by.

Near the end about seven devotees were dancing, as you can see the video below:

Prominent was Ray who is known for dancing with the devotees on occasion and who seemed to be an impetus to get the others going.

She has a lot of natural dancing enthusiasm as you can see in the video below:

One new boy who is now a regular chanter invited a girl he knew to come for the first time, and she was telling me how much she liked it. Later that boy said she was a friend from high school that he rarely sees, and it was fortunate that she came on harinama and liked it.

Saturday was the Monthly Sankirtana Festival organized by Atma-Nivedana Prabhu and his wife Subhangada Devi. They have a Bhagavad-gita class at 26 2nd Avenue every Saturday evening, and once a month their congregation gets together and chants and distributes Srila Prabhupada’s books at Union Square from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. You can see they get a good group of people participating. In the picture below, Kaliya Krishna Prabhu, who has helped greatly in funding my harinama trips to New York and other places and who sings lively tunes, is playing harmonium and leading.

In the picture below, Nruhari Prabhu, who has a summer harinama program based in Brooklyn, and who I chanted with there this time for an hour a day, is leading. During the thick of the summer he goes out in Brooklyn for two or three hours midday with a whole party of devotees.

So one who is ambitious could chant with Nruhari Prabhu and his party at midday and then join Rama Raya Prabhu and his party at Union Square in the late afternoon, and have a great program of seven hours of harinama per day, just like in ISKCON’s good old days.

You can see in the picture below, even on Saturday, there are quite a lot of people at Union Square.

Later Saturday night, my friend Michael Collins from Gainesville, who has a lot of musical talent and a powerful voice, came and led the singing. It it wonderful that activity of sharing the chanting brings us together a thousand miles from where we met.

One time on harinama in Brooklyn, one lady was very inquisitive about the blue person appearing on our invitation. She said He came to her in dreams and would take her places by flying. I explained that was Krishna, and I encouraged her to visit our temple where we had many paintings of Him on the walls, and a vegetarian restaurant. She gave a positive indication when I mentioned vegetarian food, and I hope she will come by the temple, which is just a block from where we were standing. It is rare to encounter people who are not devotees who have dreams of Krishna.

One day I was walking back to the temple after shopping, and an Afro American gentleman asked if we still had the place on Schermerhorn in Brooklyn and said that he remembered seeing Boy George there many years ago and that he was surprised by his great height. I explained that Boy George was indeed interested in Hare Krishna, although I did not know he visited the Brooklyn temple. Later that day on harinama in Manhattan someone else asked if we still had the temple in Brooklyn with its free Sunday and Wednesday programs, and I explained that we did, and we also had a restaurant Monday through Friday. It was nice to see there are fans of the Brooklyn temple wandering the streets of New York.

Harinamas in Great Britain

Although Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara Temple, ISKCON Soho Street, already did more chanting on the street than most other temples, I found to my great surprise and delight that during the winter, they had increased the program. Now there is harinama between 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. in addition to the usual afternoon harinama from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Besides this, Bhaktin Erzsebet, who has incredible enthusiasm for harinama and book distribution, often chants with her friends on the streets in the evenings. One time I went with Erzsebet and her friends, and some people videoed us and put it on YouTube. The title they gave for the video was “The Best Job in the World.” It reminded me of how Lord Caitanya describes the congregational chanting as “the prime benediction for humanity at large.” Certainly sharing the prime benediction for humanity at large is the best job in the world!

London is great because you can easily do five or six hours of harinama each day in London just by participating in these existing programs. And all that without mentioning the super ecstatic Saturday night harinama!

In addition to the harinamas, London is a great place for speaking opportunities as well. Thursday I got to go on three harinamas and give two lectures. On Friday, I got to go on five harinamas and give a lecture about Lord Caitanya at the Matchless Gifts in King’s Cross. The kirtana at that program was very lively with one devotee playing a bass clarinet and a regular attender playing the saxophone. As I am not much of a musician, usually I do not so much appreciate the contributions of the additional instrumentalists, but in this case they seemed to add a lot to the kirtana and made the music sound more professional and more alive. On Saturday with the team who arranges Hare Krishna Festivals in different parts of the UK and advertises them, I went on two harinamas, one in Reading and one in Slough.

Then I joined the famous Saturday night harinama in downtown London where lots of people enjoy interacting with the Hare Krishnas. Let me show you some pictures of the people dancing with the devotees. See how happy they are:

On the boat to France enroute to Amsterdam for Queen’s Day, I took my harmonium out our van in case there were an opportunity to play it. During the journey, I went out on the no-smoking deck with my harmonium, and I was talking with my friends when a small Indian-looking girl asked if I could play her some music. I was overjoyed that Krishna had created an opportunity for me, and I chanted the Hare Krishna mantra five times, in the usual call and response fashion with my friends. The girl and her brothers and sisters, all older than her, smiled and clapped along. Her brother asked if I had met His Divine Grace Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I explained that I met the Hare Krishnas in 1979 but Prabhupada left this world in 1977, so I had not. The young man explained how he had read Prabhupada’s Life Comes from Life and that he gained the conviction the theory of evolution is incorrect. The family was from The Hague in Holland and was originally from Surinam, the home of many Indian immigrants, including their forefathers. I told the brother about our book Forbidden Archeology which shows how much evidence contradicts the theory of human evolution and gave them my card so I could tell them of our programs in The Hague.

Queen’s Day Harinama

Kadamba Kanana Swami brought three buses of devotees from Radhadesh to attend the Queen’s Day harinama in Amsterdam this year, an increase from two in past years. We chanted from 11 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., or just over 6 hours on the streets and an additional hour and a quarter during our break for lunch, etc. There were lots of lively kirtana leaders, including Kadamba Kanana Swami himself.

Kavicandra Swami danced beautifully in the kirtana.

Parasurama Prabhu’s rickshaw, with his Gaura Nitai deities, and a great sound system added a lot.

Many, many onlookers danced with us, and some of them sang as well.

People were happier than I ever see people being.

Many took pictures.

Some clapped to the beat.

Many danced in pairs, swinging their partners.

The devotees formed an arch of paired devotees, and then passed through the arch from one end to the other. Many of the onlookers joined and had a great time.

One new devotee, Alexandra, who had met the devotees in Mayapur on a Indian tour by her yoga teacher Raghunatha, was visiting her relatives in Amsterdam and happened to see our Hare Krishna tent and join in the final harinama.

I think that of the six Queen’s Day harinamas I participated in, this was the best one because of the number of devotees and the enthusiasm of onlookers to participate. There was also plenty of prasadam for the devotees, which always helps.

As far as I understand, now that there is a King of the Netherlands, next year there will be a King’s Day instead, in April just a few days before the end of the month, and we hope we can get together and share the joy of chanting with thousands of people again then.

Devaprastha Prabhu made a video of Queen’s Day this year:


May 29 – Sheffield
May 30 – Preston
June 1–2 – London
June 2 – Leeds
June 3–5 – Newcastle
June 6–8 – Bhaktivedanta Manor
June 9 – London Ratha-yatra
June 10–13 – London
June 14–15 – Brighton
June 16 – Croydon Ratha-yatra, Crawley program
June 17–20 – Newcastle
June 21 – Stonehenge Solstice Festival
June 22–23 – Birmingham 24-hour kirtana
June 24–July 20 – mostly in the United Kingdom
July 21–26 – Lithuanian festival
July 30–August 4 – Polish Woodstock
August 10 – Bratislava
August 12–15 – German Kirtan Mela
August 15–18 – Czech Woodstock (Trutnov)
late August – London
September – New York City
October – November – Gainesville
December – New York City


Srila Prabhupada:

from Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila 17.78, purport:

The members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness cannot even call themselves brahma-bandhus. Therefore our only means for satisfying Krishna is to pursue the injunctions of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who says:

yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krishna’-upadesa
amara ajñaya guru haña tara’ ei desa

Whomever you meet, instruct him on the teachings of Krishna. In this way, on My order, become a spiritual master and deliver the people of this country.’ (Cc. Madhya 7.128) Simply trying to follow the orders of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, we speak to the people of the world about Bhagavad-gita As It Is. This will make us qualified to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna.”

from Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila 17.88, purport:

On principle, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu would distribute prasadam at the end of kirtana performances. Similarly, the members of the Krishna consciousness movement must distribute some prasadam to the audience after performing kirtana.

from Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila 17.141, purport:

The Krishna consciousness movement is not a sentimental religious movement; it is a movement for the reformation of all the anomalies of human society. If people take to it seriously, discharging this duty scientifically, as ordered by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the world will see peace and prosperity instead of being confused and hopeless under useless governments.”

from The Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 48:

It is to be understood that any person who is constantly engaged in chanting the holy names of the Lord—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—has attained a transcendental affection for Krishna, and as such, in any condition of life, he remains satisfied simply by remembering the Lords name in full affection and ecstatic love.”

from The Nectar of Devotion, Introduction:

The author of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Srila Rupa Gosvami, very humbly submits that he is just trying to spread Krishna consciousness all over the world, although he humbly thinks himself unfit for this work. That should be the attitude of all preachers of the Krishna consciousness movement, following in the footsteps of Srila Rupa Gosvami. We should never think of ourselves as great preachers, but should always consider that we are simply instrumental to the previous acaryas, and simply by following in their footsteps we may be able to do something for the benefit of suffering humanity.”

From the date of initiation by the spiritual master, the connection between Krishna and a person cultivating Krishna consciousness is established. Without initiation by a bona fide spiritual master, the actual connection with Krishna consciousness is never performed.”

As long as one identifies himself as belonging to a certain family, a certain society or a certain person, he is said to be covered with designations. When one is fully aware that he does not belong to any family, society or country, but is eternally related to Krishna, he then realizes that his energy should be employed not in the interests of so-called family, society or country, but in the interests of Krishna. This is purity of purpose and
the platform of pure devotional service in Krishna consciousness.”

from Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.12, purport:

Now people are very busy trying to find petroleum in the midst of the ocean. They are very anxious to make provisions for the future petroleum supply, but they do not make any attempts to ameliorate the conditions of birth, old age, disease and death. Thus a person in ignorance, not knowing anything about his own future life, is certainly defeated in all his activities.”

from Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.16, purport:

At the time of death both patient and physician still think of prolonging life, although all the constituents of the body are practically dead and gone.”

from Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.18, purport:

If one thinks of his wife instead of Krishna at the time of death, he will certainly not return home, back to Godhead, but will be forced to accept the body of a woman and thus begin another chapter of material existence.”

Kavicandra Swami:

If we stay alone we will not develop the good qualities like humility, tolerance, and compassion that are necessary for going back to Godhead. We will simply become proud and hard-hearted. Although Haridas Thakura chanted so much in seclusion, he also shared Krishna consciousness with others. If he had just chanted in a secluded place, the representatives of the king would not have taken the trouble to punish him.

Satsvarupa Dasa Gosvami:

from his journal, Viraha Bhavan, for April 15, 2013:

‘“Of all the orders of the spiritual master, the instruction
to chant sixteen rounds is the most essential,’ wrote
Prabhupada. We have taken a solemn
vow at the time of our initiation. We
learn to chant avoiding the ten offenses
and then the whole panorama of Krishna’s fame,
qualities, pastimes and Krishna Himself
is revealed to us. Who is such a fool
that he will not take to the chanting
and hearing of the holy names?”

I’ll go down and join
the others for lunch today.
Eating alone is good as
occasional relief. I like
to be with the devotees
even if it causes a
certain strain because
it’s my duty to sit with
them and hear the Bhagavatam
and then personal
conversations. I want
to please and serve
them by my presence.”

from CC Asraya:

As the feeling of hunger is the sign of a healthy body, so a live desire to hear the holy word is the surest mark of a soul’s good health.

Our reading of scripture is not reading for the sake of reading. It is reading for the sake of listening to Him who loves us.”

When we listen to someone we first of all have to pay attention to him, and not to whatever else may be going on around us.”

Sitting in rows in the courtyard, the many Bengali devotees honored prasadam. Svarapa Damodara and other great devotees took charge of distributing the prasadam. Not that Svarupa Damodara insisted on eating first, alone with Lord Caitanya. Service.”

from One Hundred Prabhupada Poems:

While talking to a roomful of devotees yesterday
I discovered
that Srila Prabhupada was a perfect psychologist.
He assured us that we were fortunate and happy.
We have given up sinful life and
attained Krishna consciousness
so no one should be despondent.
But Prabhupada also made it clear
we are not Vaisnavas
but servants of the Vaisnavas.
A pure devotee is very rare.
He was expert and did it subtly
so no one noticed how—
giving us confidence and humility at the same time.
And what he gave we accepted.”

from a Rama Navami lecture:

In an allegory you have a story that has a higher meaning but with the pastimes of the Lord the Supreme Lord is the highest truth, so it is not allegory.”

Murli Manohara Prabhu:

Bhagavad-gita has been relevant, is presently relevant, and will continue to be relevant.

There is movie called Singing in the Rain, but who do you see singing in the rain? It is only the Hare Krishnas, isn’t?

Animals have more acute senses than we have, for example, an eagle can see its prey from a mile in the sky. You will not, however, see a group of penguins inquiring about the Absolute Truth. That is our human gift. Not that we have attained the human form to shop on Oxford Street.

Q: Why are the men and women separate in your temple?
A: Actually, formerly even in this country, in educational institutions, the sexes were separated because it helps people concentrate on their studies. So it the same reason for us.

Ram Caran Prabhu:

Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in His pastime of the cleaning of the Gundica temple, shows that a leader should work along with his subordinates to inspire them.

Comment by me: Sometimes at the Polish Woodstock festival, Indradyumna Swami picks up the trash and thus inspires everyone else to join him.

Cleaning the temple of the heart is a lifetime project.

We may have the intention to please our guru and the Lord, but we may not go about it in ways they approve of, so we have to be careful.

In ISKCON we are all meant to be leaders. For one thing, we have this advanced spiritual knowledge to offer people.

Jagat Palana Prabhu:

Sri Caitanya-caritamrita is blissful, but the dancing of the Lord during the Ratha-yatra is especially blissful. Where do you encounter such symptoms of love of God displayed in public?

The rasa dance is the most celebrated pastime of the Lord, and thus it could be said that dancing is Krishna’s favorite activity.

Ultimately we like dancing because God likes dancing.

Dancing can be see as a manifestation of happiness.

Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami glorifies the listeners of his Sri Caitanya-caritamrita because listening to the glories of the Lord is the ultimate activity.

comment: In our outreach, Sunder Nitai Prabhu suggested that we can ask other theists, “If you accept that God reveals Himself, why then has He not revealed to you His form and activities?” Then we may propose they may be interested in the Vedic revelations of these.

Kulasekhara Prabhu:

We are feeling dissatisfaction in this world and then we meet the spiritual master who confirms that we are not meant to live in this world but to go back to the spiritual world.

The soul does not become self-realized because the soul is always self-realized.

There is a tendency to think we are the body and to seek out the soul but actually we are the soul.

The neophyte goes to see the Deity or to chant his japa, and then goes on with his life.

comment by lady devotee whose name I did not know: When Krishna says, “Abandon all varieties of religion . . .” he does not mean to abandon bhagavata-dharma, but other kinds of dharma.

Tribhanga Prabhu:

from a conversation:

Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami explains in the spiritual world that one’s form follows one’s mentality. Because Yasoda has maternal affection for Krishna, she manifests the form of a motherly lady. In the material world, we externally acquire the dress and activities of a devotee, and gradually develop the mentally of a devotee.


patrapatra-vicara nahi, nahi sthanasthana
yei yanha paya, tanha kare prema-dana

In distributing love of Godhead, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates did not consider who was a fit candidate and who was not, nor where such distribution should or should not take place. They made no conditions. Wherever they got the opportunity, the members of the Pañca-tattva distributed love of Godhead.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi 7.23)